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Athletes Then & Now: "Mean" Joe Greene


As the Super Bowl approaches, profiles one of the NFL's most famous defenders - Mean Joe Greene. Here's a look at the former Pittsburgh Steeler star's career, Then & Now.

"He's tough and mean and comes to hit people," a professional scout once claimed of Charles Edward Greene, who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers under a more fearsome moniker. And it was once very true. This was the man who threatened to stomp Dick Butkus' butt -- to his face -- and solidified his squad's intimidating "Steel Curtain" defensive line. But television viewers saw No. 75's softer side in 1979, when he enjoyed a Coke and a smile and threw his jersey to nine-year-old Tommy Okon. Greene had plenty of reasons to be happy that season as his Steelers cruised to their -- and his -- fourth Super Bowl victory. He also learned that things do go better with Coke, when his ad won a coveted Clio advertising award. The terror of Three Rivers Stadium retired in 1981 after 13 years, still seeking his fifth ring.

Greene left the Steelers but stayed with football, serving in various coaching capacities before returning to his old team in 2004. Two years later, the special assistant for player personnel watched them finally claim their fifth Bowl. Last year, during Pittsburgh's sixth ring-grab, the Coca-Cola Company saluted Greene's now-classic promo with a Coke Zero spot featuring Steeler safety Troy Polamalu. In November, Iron City was treated to a reunion of the original commercial's cast when Joe and Okon met at Heinz Field to collect the Clios they'd been awarded some 30 years earlier. (No word on whether trophies were tossed.) Although Pittsburgh won't be playing this Super Bowl Sunday -- that distinction goes to the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts -- the not-so-mean Greene will appear in a public service announcement for the American Urological Association, raising awareness for prostate cancer.

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